Transforming Libraries – Community Engagement

Community Engagement

Community Engagement Overview

SPPL is co-creating with community a vision for its library spaces. Community input shaped SPPL’s initial Strategic Direction, which includes a goal to invest in spaces that are safe, inviting, affirming, and comfortable for people of all cultures, abilities, and communities. Using the Strategic Direction as a springboard, SPPL further engaged with the community to create a Facilities Direction, opens a new window that steers its capital vision for library buildings.  

To create community-informed schematic designs for Hayden Heights, Hamline Midway, and Riverview, we designed an equity-centered community engagement process with our design partner, LSE Architects. Together, we sought to ensure historically excluded perspectives and communities were at the center of this work. Our community engagement efforts included the voices of young people, BIPOC communities, people who identify as trans or non-binary, and people with disabilities.

Read a summary of the Transforming Libraries’ Community Engagement and Design process.

The Community Engagment Journey


3,000 people participated in the Strategic Direction process in 2018-19.

What we heard: From the Strategic Direction process, we heard that residents want to invest in library spaces that are safe, inviting, affirming, and comfortable for people of all cultures, abilities, and communities.


1,680 people completed surveys and 110 people participated in neighborhood forums on library facilities wants and needs to inform the Facilities Direction in 2019.

What we heard: From the 2020 Facilities Direction process, we heard that, across demographics, libraries were valued as a place for exposure to new things and people, and as a place to have connections with other people. Library users identified a desire to:

  • Better understand what the library offers
  • Feel a stronger sense of belonging
  • Feel they have a space to go for their use, including multiple needs and uses for a diverse community
  • Understand what their library is and how library uses and culture have shifted over time
  • Have quality settings and unique niches that they don’t have at their homes, including technology access and bringing spaces up to quality and modern standards
  • Create initiatives to bring the neighborhoods together
  • Create opportunity to increase the duration of stay


35+ letters and testimonials were shared with City leaders as part of the Capital Investment Budget process & 47 youth shared their desires for library buildings at youth-led youth engagement workshops in 2021.

What we heard: From Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI) engagement with teenagers, we heard that the teenagers would like libraries to have more quiet study spaces, a teen designated space, and large windows.


LSE Architects was hired to lead a community engagement and design development process for the three priority libraries.

664 people attended and/or provided feedback at community open houses, listening sessions, design workshops, and open office hours in 2022.

All community members had opportunities to stay involved through progressive open houses (virtual and in-person). Through these open houses, community members were able to stay informed, provide feedback on analysis and alternatives, and have their concerns and aspirations reflected in the alternatives that were developed that ultimately led to the final building designs.

2,355 surveys were completed online and at pop-up events to inform the design directions in 2022.

What we did: Through a series of progressive surveys, community members were asked to provide input and react to designs. Surveys were available online and paper surveys were available at Hamline Midway, Hayden Heights, and Riverview libraries. Pop up survey events were held at community locations such as grocery stores, music stories, recreation centers, high rise housing locations, ice cream socials, schools, and picnics.

What we heard: The survey asked residents to rank which library features were most important to meeting the needs of the community. Common themes across respondents were improved accessibility, adding community meeting and/or program spaces and study rooms, and a space that reflects the cultures in my community.

26 Library Design Project Ambassadors met regularly to ensure communication to and from a broad reach of community members, including neighborhood organizations and the youth experience.

The Library Design Project Ambassador group includes selected individuals representing neighbors or other stakeholders of the three focus libraries: Hamline Midway, Hayden Heights, and Riverview. It is comprised of neighborhood groups, associations, community organizations, City representatives, and youth leadership teens. As representatives from these areas, they meet monthly to get updates to share with the community and bring to us concerns they are hearing from their constituents or neighborhood groups.

Meeting Schedule, Materials and Members

The four-artist Artist Advisory Cohort was led by public art curator and community organizer, Tricia Heuring.

The Artist Advisory Cohort included three public artists, Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra, Bayou Bay, and Xee Reiter, who used their experience as Saint Paul artists and community members to develop creative community encounters that inspired dialogue about the future of libraries as cultural hubs.

Library Dream Boards: The Artist Advisory Cohort created an intergenerational interactive art installation called Library Dream Boards that were available during regular library hours from summer 2022 in each of the three transforming libraries. Community members were invited to draw, doodle, and dream big to let us know their hopes for their library’s public art, community and culture engagement, and outdoor green spaces.

Key Findings that Guide the Vision

Libraries in Saint Paul are well loved, well used, and well worn.

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